Introduction: Build a Simple Shed: a Complete Guide

Picture of Build a Simple Shed: a Complete Guide

Here's a solid little shed I built in my backyard.

It's essentially an 8-foot cube, which is just the right size to store a bunch of bikes, a lawnmower, wheelbarrow, and all my lawn and garden tools.

The design is relatively simple and I was able to complete it for about $1200.

If you're interested in building a similar shed, this instructable documents every detail of my process from the ground up. If you happen to have a slightly sloped lawn like I do, I'll show you how I worked around that too.

Let's go!

Step 1: Some Considerations

Picture of Some Considerations

Local Regulations

Before you get too serious about building a shed, be sure to check with your local government to make sure you will be in compliance with any regulations regarding the building of a structure like this.

In the city where I live, my 8x8x8-foot shed is considered an "accessory structure" and did not require a permit to build because it is 120 square feet or less, 8 feet tall or less, and not wired for power.

If you plan to do any digging you need to call the applicable buried utilities hotline in your area and have the various companies come out and mark where their lines run. It's free, painless, and required in most locations.

Design and Budget

My goal was to build a shed that would be rock-solid and long-lasting, with a design that fully maximized my dollars-spent by taking advantage of common dimensions in building supplies . . . hence the 8-foot sizing. (As a side benefit, this design yields very little waste.)

I wanted to keep this around $1000. However, due to the additional supplies needed to build on my sloped lawn and because of a few upgrades, I ended up spending a little over $1200 on the materials for this.

Step 2: Supplies & Tools

Picture of Supplies & Tools

This is a brief look at the supplies that were needed to build this. Not everything is listed here (full details are contained in the individual steps) but this will give you a basic idea of what was used:

  • Fourteen 2x6 pressure treated 8-foot boards
  • About 50 8-foot 2x4s
  • Two sheets 23/32" tongue and groove OSB
  • Four sheets 7/16" OSB
  • One 4x6 pressure treated post (I needed this for my sloped lawn)
  • Ten 2x6 joist hangers
  • Eight SmartSide siding panels
  • Landscaping garden blocks and anchor pier blocks
  • One cartridge of landscaping adhesive
  • Several cartridges of Dynaflex 230 caulking
  • Three packages of shingles
  • Roll of roofing paper
  • Four 10-foot drip edges
  • One cartridge of roofing cement
  • Paint: one gallon of main color, one gallon of trim color
  • One gallon of Deck Restore paint for interior floor
  • Hinges and door hardware
  • Large variety of fasteners (screws, nails, bolts, etc.)

Here are the basic tools required to build a shed like this:

  • Circular saw (make sure it has a tilting base plate). I have this Makita one, which has been awesome
  • Corded drill
  • Cordless drill/driver (again with Makita, I have this drill set and really like them)
  • Framing square
  • Sawhorses (I built these, all design credit to Matthias Wandel)
  • Large level
  • Hammer and apron/tool belt
  • Painting supplies
  • Tape measure
  • Rubber mallet
  • Pick mattock and shovel

Useful tools to have, but not necessary:

  • Hammer stapler for roofing paper (I bought this one)
  • Reciprocating saw or jigsaw
  • Air compressor with small brad nailer or stapler (very helpful for trim work)
  • Table saw
  • Power miter saw

Step 3: Mini Instructable: How to Screw Stuff Together

Picture of Mini Instructable: How to Screw Stuff Together

I used primarily screws for the entire assembly of my shed (even for framing the walls), and I highly recommend the average weekend builder do likewise. Here's why:

For the average DIY-er, way up on the list of must-have tools are a decent corded drill (for drilling holes) and a decent cordless drill/driver (for driving screws).

These two tools are almost universally needed for any type of project, and are more than sufficient for building a small shed like this.

Using screws may take longer when framing versus using a hammer and nails or a nail gun, but you'll make up the difference in how forgiving they are once you make your first mistake and have to take something apart!

So . . .

Before we get started, let's take short detour to briefly go over how to properly fasten things together with screws.

See diagram above for the basics of fastening with screws.

See photo for the style of bits you should get if you don't already have some. This type of bit is a little pricey, and I don't recommend them general purpose drilling--only drilling holes for fastening screws.

Here's the set I have. I've also used this DeWalt set, which work fine and are a little cheaper.

Step 4: Lay Foundation Blocks

Picture of Lay Foundation Blocks

A small shed like this can just rest on the ground, but it is wise to first create level, firm contact points made from concrete pavers or landscaping blocks.

For an 8x8-foot layout, I recommend placing solid contact points at the corners and at the midpoints along each wall.

I have about a 12-inch slope where I wanted my shed, so I put the upper half directly on blocks buried just slightly in the ground, and the other half up on elevated risers bolted to concrete pier blocks, similar to how a low deck would be built. (There are region-specific regulations on these things, so your needs/requirements may vary.)

This step covers the installation of my upper level blocks, but if you have a fairly even area to begin with the method shown here can be used to lay out all of your ground blocks.

The blocks I used for this are 12" by 8" "Olde Manor" garden blocks from Home Depot. These looked the most beefy and substantial, so these are what I chose to use.

The photos and photo notes cover the details of placing these blocks. The trick is to make sure they are all precisely located as needed, perfectly level with each other, and firmly set on compacted material.

This is a backbreaking step, but should not be rushed or done halfheartedly.

Step 5: Pier Blocks and Risers

Picture of Pier Blocks and Risers

For the half of my shed that would be elevated, I needed to carefully position the pier blocks that would hold the wooden risers. To do this I built a temporary frame that was the exact size needed to act as a placement guide.

Making a similar temporary frame may be useful if you are building a shed on relatively flat ground, however, carefully measuring corner-to-corner to check for squareness of the layout of your ground blocks should be sufficient.

Step 6: Floor Frame: Interior Boards

Picture of Floor Frame: Interior Boards

The floor frame and internal joists were all made from pressure treated 8-foot 2x6 boards (trimmed as needed). I doubled up the external boards for added strength and rigidity.

I consciously chose to make this floor very beefy and substantial. You do not want a saggy floor in your shed!

The first layer of boards were fastened as shown here. Where boards were attached directly to the risers I used 3" galvanized 5/16" diameter lag bolts, fastened into pre-drilled holes that were slightly counterbored (so the bolt heads would sit just below the surface of the outer boards).

Everywhere else I used 3" exterior grade screws, fastened into pre-drilled holes.

Where the upper portion of the frame rests directly on blocks I used landscaping adhesive to hold them in place. This same adhesive was used to secure the two blocks on each side that support the frame midway along the slope.

At this point it is critical that the frame is square. Be sure to measure corner-to-corner and adjust the frame as needed until both dimensions are exactly the same.

Step 7: Floor Frame: Exterior Boards

Picture of Floor Frame: Exterior Boards

Exterior boards were added to double up the floor frame, lapped at the corners as shown.

Where my frame was attached to the riser blocks I actually fastened this second layer internally so the boards tied in directly to the riser blocks.

This required a bit of pre-planning to ensure that the finished frame was exactly 8 feet by 8 feet, but it all came together nicely.

Step 8: Floor Joists

Picture of Floor Joists

Galvanized joist hangers were fastened to the frame with galvanized nails every 16 inches.

The joist boards were fastened in place with 3" exterior screws through the joist brackets.

Blocks of 2x6 were then added to the mid section between the joists to provide support to the edges of the floor boards that would meet there. These sections were fastened in between the joists with toe-nailed screws (or would that be "toe-screwed"?)

Step 9: Floor Boards

Picture of Floor Boards

Two sheets of 4' by 8' tongue and groove 23/32" OSB were used for the floor boards. These were fastened to the floor frame and joists with 1 1/2" exterior screws placed every 8 inches or so.

The "tongue" of the board that was sticking out over the edge of the frame was carefully trimmed off with a circular saw.

Okay . . .

Some of you may be thinking "Hey man, aren't you concerned about your shed racking (shifting laterally) on those risers?"

Frankly, no, I am not.

Because of the relatively short height of the risers and the way they are bolted to the frame, I'm very comfortable with this setup.

That said, if I was dealing with a more dramatic slope and needed risers substantially taller than this, I would not be as comfortable with this simple of a solution.

If I was building a shed on a very steep slope (and was not going the route of building a retaining wall and back-filling it to create level spot), I would cement 4x6 posts deeply in the ground, and create a framework of angled supports fastened from the risers to the floor frame.

That would be kind of fun to figure out, but fortunately that is not needed here!

Step 10: Trusses and the Magic Number

Picture of Trusses and the Magic Number

When it comes to framing trusses for a simple structure like this, 22.5 really is a magic number.

If you cut something at 22.5 degrees and want to cut a mating piece to go with it? 22.5 as well. Boom, easy!

That oversimplifies things, but let's just go with it.

The building of the roof trusses as well as the walls is done right on the floor platform. It's basically a large, perfectly-sized work table that acts as a sizing guide as you assembly the components that will ultimately be fastened to it.

For the roof I went with five trusses laid out 24 inches apart. See diagrams for dimensions and details on building the trusses.

Step 11: Framing the End Walls

Picture of Framing the End Walls

I framed my all my walls with 2x4 studs set 24 inches apart. You could do the studs at 16 inches apart, but I feel 24" is generally adequate for a shed. (I wanted a super strong and "never-ever-gonna-sag" floor, so that's why I went with 16" centers there.)

I chose to attach the exterior panels to the wall frames prior to putting each wall section up. This requires some planning and careful laying out of things along the way, but when it's time to put up the walls they go up in a breeze!

I began by building the two peaked end walls. These two are built the full width of the floor, so exactly 8 feet wide.

For the height, I wanted to use every inch of the exterior siding panels I bought, so the height of the end walls plus the height of the floor platform together needed to be exactly 8 feet.

The exterior panels will be attached to the wall frames with the bottom edge extending past the bottom of the walls, so the panels will cover the deck sides once the walls are put in place.

On paper the height of the deck should be 5 1/2" plus 23/32", or just a 32nd under 6 1/4".

In real life however, it was closer to 6 3/8". In a situation like this always go with actual real-life measurement rather than what it should be on paper.

See diagram and photos for details and measurements. All of these boards were fastened with 3" screws through pre-drilled holes.

I'll briefly cover framing doors and windows in a later step.

Step 12: Framing the Side Walls

Picture of Framing the Side Walls

The side walls are framed with 3 1/2" subtracted from the width on either end so they butt up nicely against the insides of peaked end walls.

The exterior panels will be left the full eight feet wide however, so they cover up the end wall frames once all the walls are put up.

Step 13: Framing Windows and Doors

Picture of Framing Windows and Doors

You have a lot of options when it comes to windows and doors on a simple shed like this.

I got an old window from my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which I built into one of my side walls. For the door, I needed it in a very specific location, which also dictated the max size I could build it (the building of the actual door is covered later on).

See the photo notes for how I framed mine and for the basics on framing in windows and doors.

Step 14: Install Side Wall Panels

Picture of Install Side Wall Panels

The installation of the wall panels requires precision and a very specific order of steps.

Since the factory-cut panels are perfectly square we can use this to our advantage to pull the frames into perfect squareness as well. The panels are attached with exterior galvanized nails according to the order and directions in the diagrams I've shared here.

If you want the shed to come together nicely, your walls have got to be perfectly square. Take your time and do it right.

Step 15: Install End Wall Panels

Picture of Install End Wall Panels

The end wall panels are installed in essentially the same manner as the side walls except there is no side overhang to plan for.

Mark and trim off the top corners of the panels as shown.

Step 16: Side Wall Window

Picture of Side Wall Window

The side wall where I put my window required quite a bit of measuring and marking to know where to put all the exterior nails to fasten the panels to the frame.

With the panels in place I removed the material where the window was to go, and installed the window.

Note: Don't remove the paneling where the door is framed in yet. The wall will be too weak without it at this point.

Step 17: Vents

Picture of Vents

You will want a couple of vents placed somewhere along your walls to maintain some airflow in and out of your shed.

I placed mine on either ends of the the non-windowed side wall (which faces away from my house, so I don't have to look at them).

Step 18: Put Up the Walls!

Picture of Put Up the Walls!

This is where things get really exciting!

You get to see if all your careful measuring and building was done correctly.

I started by lifting the back end wall into place. I used 4" exterior screws to fasten the wall through the floor board into the floor frame boards. Be sure to use screws that can be fastened into treated lumber.

The side walls were then lifted into place, butted firmly against the back wall frame, and then screwed down through the floor boards into the floor frame.

The corners where the frames meet were screwed together from inside the side wall frames to the end wall frame.

Shorter exterior screws were added all along the outside bottom edges of the panels where they cover the floor frame.

Step 19: Last Wall

Picture of Last Wall

The last wall was lifted up and held in place by a couple of people. I climbed in and screwed it in place just as the other walls had been.

The paneling that was covering the door frame was then carefully cut free using a reciprocating saw. This panel will be used to build the door so care was taken to trim it carefully and not ruin it.

The section of the wall frame at the bottom of the door was also removed with the reciprocating saw.

Step 20: Build Roof

Picture of Build Roof

The three remaining trusses were screwed to the tops of the wall frames directly inline with the wall studs.

Two sheets of 7/16" OSB were fastened to the trusses with screws (about every 8 inches) making sure the trusses were vertical.

7-inch strips of OSB were added along the lower edges to complete the roof. The amount of overhang was dictated by how I wanted to do the roof trim boards, which is covered in a later step.

Step 21: Intermission

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You know, you wait all week for the weekend so you can work on your big project.

. . . And then you wake up to this nonsense.

Step 22: Paint Walls

Picture of Paint Walls

Once the snow melted I painted the walls.

I used Behr exterior paint, color: Boston Brick.

Step 23: Roof Trim

Picture of Roof Trim

With the walls painted I added the roof trim pieces.

I decided to use actual 2x4s for this to give the roof a more substantial look.

Step 24: Trim Window and Corners

Picture of Trim Window and Corners

Trim was added around the window and along the corners. These trim pieces were painted ahead of time and fastened with 1" pneumatic staples.

I used exterior putty to fill the staple holes, and the window and corner trim was then caulked to seal the edges.

Then I went back and quickly did some touch up painting.

Step 25: Miscellaneous Stuff

Picture of Miscellaneous Stuff

Here are some miscellaneous items that were taken care of at this point.

Step 26: Roofing

Picture of Roofing

For the roof, I installed architectural shingles to match the ones on my house (mostly) according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer, which are available here.

For a simple shed like this you can either overhang your shingles a couple of inches all around, or install an aluminum drip edge as I did.

Step 27: The Door

Picture of The Door

There are so many details involved with the building and installation of the door.

I'm just going to let the photos and photo notes do all the explaining!

Step 28: Build Some Shelves

Picture of Build Some Shelves

I deliberated for a while on how to include some shelves that would be useful, not waste any floor space, and still provide access to the window. These are what I came up with.

Step 29: Lawn Tool Storage

Picture of Lawn Tool Storage

This is the solution I came up with for some tidy lawn tool storage.

These little hangers were made from 2" PVC.

Step 30: Paint the Floor

Picture of Paint the Floor

I painted my floor with Rustoleum 4x Deck Cover paint so it would be waterproof and durable. One gallon allowed for two heavy coats.

Step 31: Fill It Full of Stuff

Picture of Fill It Full of Stuff

My new shed fits all the stuff I've put in it so far!

Step 32: Thoughts

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Whew!

Thanks for sticking around till the bitter end. I think this is the most detailed documentation I've ever done for a project of mine. I sincerely hope it will be useful to many people.

At some future date I plan to build a block wall around the base (a sort of faux retaining wall) to close in the underside of the shed to keep out strays (cats and soccer balls).

I was tempted to build a small ramp next to the door but ultimately decided against it. We can get our bikes and lawn mower in and out pretty easily so a ramp was not needed.

This was a fun project and very rewarding!

I hope you'll build a similar shed. If you do, be sure to share some photos in the comments. As always, thoughtful feedback is appreciated. Thanks for taking a look!

Comments

danzo321 (author)2015-05-31

Wow, very solid. We just built three Information Booths for local festival, similar in most ways but ours were built on bases that act as pallets so forklift can put them on a truck for storage. Be sure to note that diagonal strut in door slopes toward the lowest hinge, kids. And always build drip edges on structures you want to keep.

joe.lyddon.7 (author)2015-05-12

You did a GREAT job!

Matthias Wandel does pretty good work; amazing guy!

Thank you very much!

pdriscoll4 (author)2015-05-11

Fantastic detail!

It has inspired me to sort out the shed that I have been promising myself since my wife stopped my garage extension! You have answered lots of questions that I had in my head.

Good job on your shed.

seamster (author)pdriscoll42015-05-11

Thank you! Glad it helped you out a bit. A lot of the methods I used could be adapted to any size of shed you build. Good luck on yours if you make one!

nathanaloysiusbash (author)2015-05-10

The raised legs of the shed that look like theyre sitting on special bracket bolts, they almost look like theyre height adjustable if you jacked the shed up. Are they?

Those brackets are just epoxied into the blocks. Here's a link to the ones I used: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Unbranded-Concrete-Pier-Block-with-Metal-Bracket-8053112/202820094

(Note that the brackets in this home depot listing sit directly flush with the cement block. The ones I bought had the bracket standing off of the cement block an inch or so. I assume it was a slight design change to keep the wood posts elevated just enough to avoid being in direct contact with moisture or something.)

Oh ok. I see now. The shed looks great. Id live there, me and my shovels and bikes. Cool pvc hangers by the way.

Thanks man!

DaHooch (author)2016-09-26

Great instructable!

Thank you greatly.

CarlTheDabbler (author)2015-08-06

Good work on the shed. I love the PVC tool hangers. That's a great idea.

shawnlambert (author)2015-05-12

good idea with the PVC pipe

danzo321 (author)shawnlambert2015-05-31

I was worried the heavy pike tool might be too heavy for PVC brackets

seamster (author)danzo3212015-08-05

It's plenty strong. I had the same thought though initially, but after putting it up and gauging the strength of it I wasn't worried.

seamster (author)shawnlambert2015-05-12

Thank you sir!

VeganJuneDad (author)2015-08-05

Nice job on the shed, it looks great.

A corded drill? Really?? I've got a nice dewalt set of a hammer drill and an impact driver. The impact driver is super light. I could never use a driver or drill with a cord. The batteries these days on even a basic driver negate the need for a corded one, certainly.

But I've never drilled a pilot hole in my life, so what do I know. No seriously, unless it's super delicate or thin, I just use the impact driver and make it work. Sure, sometimes the wood splits a bit, but I don't care about looks and most of my projects are built with pallets and discarded stuff anyway. But the thought of predrilling every hole?? And messing a corded driver?? Come on dude, that's laughable!

seamster (author)VeganJuneDad2015-08-05

"But I've never drilled a pilot hole in my life, so what do I know."

Sometimes it's better to not reveal what you don't know :)

cobourgdave (author)2015-07-10

I like your project! Well planned, nicely illustrated and an excellent B/M. I am planning a shed at the moment and appreciate you sharing your ideas. Thanks for sharing

seamster (author)cobourgdave2015-07-10

Thank you! Good luck on your shed. I hope you'll snap some photos and share it as an instructable. The more the merrier! :)

vandim199 (author)2015-06-13

Are you a wizard?

rustygray (author)2015-06-06

Really quite excellent...

bettina-sisr (author)2015-06-01

wonderful job! Wow, nicer than a lot of homes where I live LOL! Great project to get the kids into helping with too!

NewY1 (author)2015-05-10

Seriously? If you need permission to build a shed on your land, then it's safe to presume, it's not your land. There is no way I would ever ask permission of any servant or group of servants nor my neighbors if I may build a shed on 'my' land.

BTW: Great project, I like it. This site is fabulous.

danzo321 (author)NewY12015-05-31

Most of us live in districts where we want to be subject to zoning laws just so the neighbors don't erect total crap sheds etc.

bettina-sisr (author)danzo3212015-06-01

or more likely if your property value goes up, so do your taxes, they want their $$$! Also to make sure your not housing people etc...and permits cost too. I know it seems ridiculous, but if you get a over-zealous neighbor who calls you in you could pay fines, or have to tear it down. Better to check before hand if you live in town, but if I was out in the country on some land forget it:-)

oops your-should be you're

Ralphxyz (author)2015-05-10

Great project thank you!!

I'd like more detail on the pier blocks and risers.

re: Electricity just run an extension cord the electrical code ends at the outlet! You can bury the cord and have outlets, lights and switches powered by the electric cord.

Love the door and those holders for yard tools.

Thanks again.

danzo321 (author)Ralphxyz2015-05-31

Not every wire is safe to keep buried

seamster (author)Ralphxyz2015-05-10

Hi!

The blocks I used came from home depot . . . here's a direct link: http://www.homedepot.com/p/Unbranded-Concrete-Pier-Block-with-Metal-Bracket-8053112/202820094

The bracket on top is galvanized and epoxied into the cement block. I've used these for various projects, and they've always worked out great. (The brackets on the blocks I bought stood an inch or so above the block however, unlike the ones showing in that home depot listing.)

Did you have any specific questions about the blocks and risers? I'll answer the best I can!

shawnlambert (author)2015-05-12

That back corner looks really close to the ground... inviting carpenter ants termites and rot.

danzo321 (author)shawnlambert2015-05-31

We like to isolate wood from foundation blocks with generous aluminum shim so bugs are discouraged.

antoniraj (author)2015-05-23

Very nicely done. You mentioned that this is considered an "accessory structure" and did not require a permit to build because it is 120 square feet or less, 8 feet tall or less, and not wired for power. Can you add a solar panel for lighting the shed or does it require a permit ?

seamster (author)antoniraj2015-05-23

Hey, that's a great question! I'm not sure, but I'm guessing I could I doubt anyone would complain.

danzo321 (author)seamster2015-05-31

Or consider a fiberglass roof panel for light.

vanessakeith (author)2015-05-20

this is great!

nuelma (author)2015-05-18

you do a great work

mickkell (author)2015-05-12

No way that should of cost 1200.00 unless

you hired a bunch of Carpenters to build it for you.

seamster (author)mickkell2015-05-12

I will show you my receipts, and even the spreadsheet I put together! ;)

Perhaps my local Home Depot is charging astronomical prices for their SmartSide siding and pressure treated 2x6 lumber? Who knows. It all added up though.

tjdux (author)seamster2015-05-16

that siding should be gold plated for how much it costs and treated lumber is 4x price or more of untreated. I looked into building a shed like this not long ago and came up with a similar price. there are some corners you could have cut but you would have lost the super solid floor. Great shed buddy.

seamster (author)tjdux2015-05-16

Thank you very much. I figure, if you're going to commit to a project like this, make sure you build it to last! :)

mickkell (author)seamster2015-05-12

WOW, that just seem way too high to me but OK.

OneEye (author)2015-05-15

Good Job!

OneEye (author)2015-05-15

Another option if the sloope is heigher is to use a sheathed cripple wall. The plywood siding acts as a very good shear element. It can work as well or better than angled supports, and you don't need to do embedded posts.

seamster (author)OneEye2015-05-15

Ooh, good tip! I've never heard of that, but it sounds brilliant. Thank you!

OneEye (author)2015-05-15

I put a line of foundation blocks along the centerline of my shed to shorten up the spans of the floor joists. It took a little extra to position and square up the extra blocks, but it made sure there were no issues with floor sag or bounciness and I could just use the 2x6 without doubling up.

KelseyB1 (author)2015-05-13

yeah thats gret

jessyratfink (author)2015-05-12

The roof storage is FANTASTIC! Definitely doing that once I get a shed.

Also - that door is so good :D

seamster (author)jessyratfink2015-05-12

Thank you so much!

Everyone needs their own shed . . . that, and their own sewing machine!

AD8BC (author)2015-05-12

Nice job! The only thing that worries me is (it looks like) it's built right in front of the access cover for the telephone company junction box. They may quibble over it if they need to get into it.

seamster (author)AD8BC2015-05-12

Good eyes, sir!

I actually was worried about that too. If the access panel hinges out from the top as it appears to do, there is enough clearance for it to open without hitting the shed. If that panel just lifts out of place, then we're more than good.

shawnlambert (author)2015-05-12

Not sure where you live, but in the north or cold climates it is advisable to sink supports at least 40" (depending on your location) down, or below the frost line...otherwise your shed could move...no matter how compact the earth seems.

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